The Long-Distance Rebound of Bernie Sanders

Senator Bernie Sanders has come a long way without other people’s advice. The progressive lone ranger is now leading in the polls nationally as the preferred candidate to defeat Donald Trump—ahead of Hillary in that matchup.

Now, however, Bernie Sanders is facing the verdict of closed primaries in many states which bar independent voters from voting for any of the Democratic or Republican candidates. Pointedly, Senator Sanders won only one of the five states with primaries on April 26, 2016: Rhode Island. Why? Because that state has an open primary allowing independent voters, heavily pro-Sanders, to carry him to victory.

Had the other closed primary states—Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Connecticut and earlier New York—held open primaries, he would likely have defeated Hillary Clinton as Obama defeated Hillary in 2008. Sanders would also have the possibility of changing the minds of many permanent superdelegates.

Chalk up another blockage of the people’s will to the state laws obstructing the rights of voters and insurgent candidates. Twenty states have open primaries, presumably to increase voter choice and turnout, and to justify having taxpayers pay for the primaries of private political parties.

Now, Bernie Sanders has some agonizing choices to make as a trustee for millions of voters, especially young voters, who rallied to his and their agenda for a more just society. He has pledged to support the Democratic Party nominee for president which is likely to be Hillary Clinton, barring the revelation of old scandals or the release of secret transcripts of her speeches to closed-door business conferences that paid her $5000 a minute!

When he goes to the Democratic Convention this July in Philadelphia, he will undoubtedly want to reform the Party platform and expel the influence of un-elected superdelegates, such as members of Congress, and Party leaders, who wield voting powers without receiving any primary votes. The superdelegates scheme was cooked up to avoid “weak candidates” or any bottom-up “revolts” against the Party establishment and their ever-present consultants. He will lose this demand.

The Sanders contingent will want to have their proposals for a $15 minimum wage, tuition-free public colleges and universal health insurance (single payer) adopted in the Party platform. These and other highly popular Sanders reforms, including a Wall Street speculation tax, will be strenuously opposed by the business-as-usual delegates. Party regulars don’t want a “political revolution” or a bold progressive in their platform.

Sanders will not get far on the platform, much less tying any words on reform to promises by Hillary Clinton to send implementing legislation to Congress. The Clintonites will try to assuage Sanders with a prime-time speech to the Convention. Do you remember any former prime time speeches?

Thus, the Sanders movement is confronted with utter dissipation and disappointment at the Convention, where the victorious vanquish the runner-ups with arms locked and hands raised high on the convention stage. Following this display of party unity, the vanquished are expected to retire to the shadows and take their orders for forthcoming full-throated campaigning for the nominee.

This falling off the cliff must be resisted by Sanders or he risks large-scale withdrawal, disappointment and cynicism by the supporters of his scandal-free candidacy with the resounding message against the “billionaire class”. The question is how?

Here is my suggestion. The Sanders movement should organize a massive demonstration in August or September on the Mall in Washington, DC, preceded and followed by a series of mobilizing workshops on his campaign redirections and reforms to advance our country. The rally would champion the issues that the major parties should take heed of and run on, since many of them have left/right support.

The rally should pass the buckets to raise donations for establishing immediately an office in Washington to press forward with the event’s momentum but not specifically endorse any of the two major party candidates.

Then, regional rallies and workshops around our country could lead to the creation of a political force with specific agendas which candidates for all offices – local, state and federal – may wish to adopt.

Clearly the two parties, imprisoned by corporatism, corporate cash and the war machine and laced with exclusionary electoral practices and rules that entrench their status quo, bring out the worst from our nation. These parties have to be taken over by energies of fair play for people or replaced with viable third parties.

Earlier this month, there were well-organized civic demonstrations and non-violent civil disobedience that led to many hundreds of arrests outside of Congress and other locations. They were organized by two groups – Democracy Spring and Democracy Awakening – and supported by many civic and labor associations. They represented new momentum for the public interest or what a functioning democracy must be all about. Right now, Bernie Sanders is the man of the hour. Before the spotlight moves on, he needs to use the enthusiastic political capital he and his colleagues have amassed to lay the foundation for fundamental progressive change rooted within the local communities of America.

Now is the time, Senator Sanders. Seize the moment!

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Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! 

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